Yoshi Tatsu

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Yoshi Tatsu
Yoshi Tatsu.jpg
Birth name Naofumi Yamamoto[1]
Born (1977-08-01) August 1, 1977 (age 38)[2]
Gifu, Gifu, Japan[2]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Naofumi Yamamoto[3]
Mr. Yamamoto[3]
Yoshi Tatsu[4]
Billed height 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)[2]
Billed weight 102 kg (225 lb)[2]
Billed from Tokyo, Japan
Trained by Yuji Nagata[4]
New Japan Pro Wrestling[3][1]
Florida Championship Wrestling[3]
Debut October 12, 2002[2][5]

Naofumi Yamamoto (山本 尚史 Yamamoto Naofumi?, born August 1, 1977) is a Japanese professional wrestler and former boxer.[1][3] Yamamoto started his professional wrestling career under his real name in October 2002 with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he remained until 2007, when he signed with WWE. In 2009, Yamamoto left WWE's developmental territory to join the promotion's main roster under the ring name Yoshi Tatsu. After his June 2014 release from WWE, Yamamoto returned to NJPW the following October, now performing under the ring name Yoshitatsu.

Professional wrestling career[edit]

New Japan Pro Wrestling (2002–2007)[edit]

With a sports background in boxing and jujutsu, Yamamoto passed an audition held by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) in September 2001 and began training professional wrestling at the promotion's dojo the following March.[1] During his training, Yamamoto also travelled to Los Angeles to train at the local NJPW dojo.[1] Yamamoto made his in-ring debut on October 12, 2002, facing Wataru Inoue in Korakuen Hall.[5][1]

Initially Yamamoto worked low card matches for NJPW, normally on the losing side to gain ring experience. On December 27, 2003, Yamamoto lost to Ryusuke Taguchi in a chance at a match on NJPW's most prestigious show, the January 4 Dome Show Wrestling World.[6] Yamamoto participated in the 2004 Young Lion Cup where he defeated Hirooki Goto, Akiya Anzawa, and Hiroshi Nagao to earn a total of six points, not enough to qualify for the finals.[7][8][9] Yamamoto also participated in the 2005 Young Lion Cup where he only won one match, defeating Yujiro.[10] In 2006 Yamamoto participated in his first G1 Climax tournament, losing all four matches.[11] Yamamoto teamed up with Manabu Nakanishi to compete in the 2006 G1 Tag League, defeating Giant Bernard and Travis Tomko to earn their sole victory in the tournament.[12] On January 8, 2006, Yamamoto and Osamu Nishimura defeated Toru Yano and a returning Togi Makabe.[13] Over the summer of 2007 Yamamoto began teaming regularly with Hiroshi Tanahashi forming a team called "New Japan Dragons", earning a match for the IWGP Tag Team Championship against the then champions, Bernard and Tomko, albeit in a losing effort.[14] For the 2007 G1 Tag League Yamamoto teamed up with Takashi Ilzuka, while they defeated three teams (Hirooki Goto and Milano Collection A.T., Togi Makabe and Toru Yano, and Giant Bernard and Travis Tomko); the team ended up in last place.[15] On November 2, 2007 Yamamoto wrestled his last match for NJPW, teaming with his mentor Yuji Nagata in a losing effort against Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano.[16]

World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE[edit]

Florida Championship Wrestling (2007–2009)[edit]

Yoshitatsu in Florida Championship Wrestling in 2009.

In late 2007 Yamamoto was signed by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to a full-time contract, which meant that he had to relocate to the United States. He immediately was assigned to WWE's developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), to undergo assessment and training in the "WWE Style" of wrestling. Initially he wrestled as Mr. Yamamoto, then simply as Yamamoto.[17] He briefly teamed with Sheamus O'Shaunessy under the team name "the Movers and the Shakers".[18] Later on he changed his ring name to Yoshitatsu, before tweaking the spelling to Yoshi Tatsu.[17] Yoshitatsu is Yamamoto's father's given name.[19]

ECW and Raw (2009–2011)[edit]

On June 30, 2009, Yamamoto joined the ECW brand under the ring name Yoshi Tatsu. He had his first match that night, defeating Shelton Benjamin, although he lost a rematch to Benjamin on the July 9 episode of ECW.[20][21] On the October 20 episode of ECW, Tatsu defeated Zack Ryder to become number one contender for the ECW Championship, although he failed to win the championship the following week against Christian.[22] On the December 22 ECW, Yoshi Tatsu defeated Jack Swagger to earn a spot in the ECW Homecoming battle royal, the winner of which would challenge Christian for the ECW title at the Royal Rumble.[23] On the January 12 episode of ECW, however, Tatsu was not able to win the battle royal when he was eliminated by Kane. At the Royal Rumble, Tatsu competed in his first Royal Rumble match, but was eliminated by John Cena.[24] Tatsu then formed a tag team with Goldust [25] and the duo became the number one contenders for the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship [26] but failed in capturing the titles on the final episode of ECW on Syfy.

After the ECW brand was discontinued, Tatsu made his debut on the Raw brand on the February 22, 2010 episode of Raw, where he teamed up with Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston to defeat The Legacy (Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase, and Cody Rhodes), after Orton turned on his partners.[27] Tatsu won a 26-Man Battle Royal in the dark match to open WrestleMania XXVI by last eliminating Zack Ryder. In July 2010, Tatsu had a few backstage brawls with The Nexus, trying to help John Cena get rid of them, which he didn't. Yoshi then went to Japan to promote the new WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 video game. After months off WWE television, Tatsu returned on the November 11 episode of WWE Superstars, defeating Zack Ryder. On the November 29 Raw, Tatsu teamed with Mark Henry to defeat WWE Tag Team Champions Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater, after a distraction by John Cena. A week later, Tatsu and Henry received a shot at the titles in a Fatal-4-Way Elimination Tag Team match, which also included The Usos and Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov. They were the first team eliminated. On the February 14 Raw, Maryse and DiBiase were about to kiss but Maryse instead kissed Tatsu. On the February 24 Superstars, during the match between Daniel Bryan and Ted DiBiase, Yoshi Tatsu came out and gave Maryse flowers, which Maryse hit DiBiase with, allowing Bryan to defeat DiBiase with the LeBell Lock. Tatsu failed at a chance to earn a World Heavyweight Championship shot in a 20-man number one contenders battle royal.[28]

Superstars, Main Event and NXT (2011–2014)[edit]

On April 26, Tatsu was drafted to the SmackDown brand as part of the 2011 Supplemental Draft.[29] He only had two matches on SmackDown in 2011; a number one contenders battle royal for the World Heavyweight Championship and an "All I Want for Christmas" battle royal, the winner of which would receive one wish.[28]

Tatsu was a WWE Pro for the fifth season of WWE NXT, also known as NXT Redemption, and his Rookie was Byron Saxton. On the April 26 episode of WWE NXT, Tatsu was attacked by Saxton after Tatsu cost his match against Lucky Cannon. This caused tension between the two until the May 17 NXT, when Tatsu defeated Saxton. On the May 31 NXT, Saxton was the second rookie eliminated.

Tatsu then began a feud with fellow NXT pro Tyson Kidd, whose rookie was also eliminated, when Kidd broke Tatsu's toy figurine of himself and stole one of the its legs.[30] They traded wins during their feud,[30][31] and Tatsu reclaimed the leg by winning a Necklace on a Pole match on the July 26 NXT.[32] After the match, Kidd assaulted Tatsu's right leg, taking him off NXT for over a month. However, over the next few weeks, the Kanji word for “pride” appeared on the TitanTron to distract Kidd during his matches – a message from Tatsu. He returned on the September 6 NXT, where he debuted black tights emblazoned with Kanji characters and the Japanese flag, his small lock of blond hair dyed red and half his face painted. He defeated Kidd on that episode to end the feud.[33] Tatsu later explained that his new look and wrestling style were because he wanted to better portray Japanese culture, Japanese pride and the aggressive style of Japanese wrestling. He said his face paint was a tribute to the Great Muta.[34] Tatsu stopped wearing his face paint to the ring by October 2011.[35] From December 2011, Tatsu formed an alliance with Trent Barreta to feud with Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks.[36] Both teams played pranks on each other; Tatsu was locked in a closet and Reks' hands were superglued to an Xbox controller.[37] The feud ended when Hawkins and Reks defeated Barreta and Tatsu on the January 18 episode of NXT.[38]

On the February 9, 2012 episode of Superstars, Tatsu defeated Johnny Curtis.[39] This would be his last televised victory in WWE, as he lost the rest of his televised matches in 2012 and 2013, even on NXT,[40] which in August 2012 had become WWE's re-branded developmental territory.[41] On the January 23, 2013 episode of NXT, Tatsu and Percy Watson entered the NXT Tag Team Championship Tournament to crown the inaugural champions, but were defeated by The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper and Erick Rowan) in the first round.[42] Tatsu continued sporadically wrestling on NXT throughout the rest of 2013 and 2014, but lost all his matches. In his final WWE pay-per-view appearance, Tatsu unsuccessfully competed in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX in April 2014.[43] On June 12, 2014, Tatsu was released from his WWE contract, along with 10 other talents.[44]

Independent circuit (2014–present)[edit]

On July 29, 2014, Yamamoto made his first post-WWE match at BELIEVE 77.[45] At BELIEVE 79, Yamamoto defeated Aaron Epic to win the SCW Florida Heavyweight Championship, his first pro wrestling title (which he vacated on March 28, 2015 due to his neck injury). On September 20, 2014, Yamamoto made his debut for Chikara, losing to Ashley Remington via disqualification, following outside interference from Juan Francisco de Coronado.[46]

Return to NJPW (2014–present)[edit]

On October 13, 2014, at King of Pro-Wrestling, Yamamoto, billed as "Yoshitatsu", returned to New Japan, attacking Jeff Jarrett when he interfered in the main event match and, in doing so, helped Hiroshi Tanahashi defeat A.J. Styles for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.[47][48] Yamamoto did not return to working under his real name due to him being known better under the name Yoshi Tatsu, but he also could not continue working under his WWE name because of trademark issues, leading to the new spelling.[19] He was given the new gimmick of "Bullet Club hunter" with him claiming that he had grown sick of seeing WWE and NXT employees wearing Bullet Club shirts and was now looking to eliminate the villainous stable from professional wrestling, starting with A.J. Styles.[19] Yoshitatsu wrestled his return match on November 8 at Power Struggle, where he was defeated by Styles, following outside interference from Jarrett. Styles won after hitting Yoshitatsu with his signature finisher, the Styles Clash. While performing the move Yoshitatsu moved his head down before the point of impact with the mat. Instead of having his face slammed into the mat he took his weight, Styles' weight, and all the force onto his neck. After the match, Jarrett hit Yoshitatsu with a guitar.[49] On November 14, Yoshitatsu and Hiroshi Tanahashi announced they were forming a new tag team named "The World".[50] The World was scheduled to take part in the 2014 World Tag League, but after their opening match on November 22, Yoshitatsu was forced to pull out of the tournament with a neck injury.[51] On November 25, Yamamoto announced he had two broken bones in his neck, suffered presumably in his match with Styles when he botched the Styles Clash.[52] Yamamoto had a halo installed in his skull, which he wore for the next three months.[53] In May 2015, Yamamoto started training for a comeback at the Team Vision Gym in Orlando, Florida.[54]

Other media[edit]

As Tatsu, Yamamoto is featured as a playable superstar for the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011, WWE '12 and WWE '13 (as DLC) video games. He was previously featured in King of Colosseum II and Wrestle Kingdom 2 under his real name.

Personal life[edit]

Yamamoto is a graduate from Kokushikan University with a degree in political science.[55] Yamamoto is also married and has a child.[3]

In wrestling[edit]

  • Entrance themes
    • "Naofumi Yamamoto Theme Song" by New Japan Pro Wrestling[1] (NJPW)
    • "J-Pop Drop" by Tom Haines and Christopher Branch (WWE; June 30, 2009–June 12, 2014)
    • "World Famous" by Yonosuke Kitamura[73][74]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

  • I Believe in Wrestling
    • SCW Florida Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[75]
  • Pro Wrestling Illustrated
    • PWI ranked him #78 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2010[76]
  • Pro Wrestling Riot
    • PWR Championship (1 time, current)[77]

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 0–1 Hiroyuki Ota Submission (armbar) TFC - Titan Fighting Championship 3 April 30, 2001 1 3:44 Tokyo, Japan [78]


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External links[edit]